Someday, maybe, Kansas City's professional baseball and football teams will get their clocks in synch and click at the same time. It doesn't seem that the Royals and Chiefs have ever found success at the same time for as long as both have been in Kansas City, and that's been almost half a century.
The Chiefs are celebrating their golden anniversary in Kansas City this season, having relocated from Dallas, where they were the Texans, after the first three seasons of the old American Football League, founded by the Chiefs' owner and founder, Lamar Hunt.
The Royals originated in 1969 as an American League expansion team after the whimsical and then win-averse Athletics left town to settle in Oakland following the 1967 season.
Throughout their co-existence - the two franchises even shared the same stadium for four years - it has been extremely rare that both teams have had winning seasons, let alone championship years, in the same 12-month period.
This thought struck me again this past weekend while watching the Chiefs' get humbled back to reality in a 31-14 preseason loss to their cross-state NFL rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals, in a game in which Kansas City was put down and away from the very outset. Chiefs' fans, myself included, were anxiously awaiting the game with the Rams to see how the 2012 version of our team would fare in its first true road test of the season, even if it was just a practice game.
You see, when the calendar turns to August in this city, the time of the MLB season by which the love-‘em and hate-‘em Royals traditionally have long played themselves out of the playoff picture, the focal point of Kansas City sports fans methodically and mercilessly shifts away from the baseball team and onto the new NFL football season and the Chiefs.
To bring this point full circle, while KC fans were lamenting the disappointing play of the expected-to-be-better Chiefs this past weekend, that other team in town that plays across the parking lot from Arrowhead Stadium at the place they call ‘The K' was finishing off a three-game sweep of the AL Central division-leading Chicago White Sox. In addition to taking three from the White Sox, whom the Royals have beaten eight out of 12 games this season, going into Monday's series at Tampa Bay, the Royals had somewhat quietly strung together five wins in their last seven games and 10 out of the last 15, a victory string that moved them by Cleveland and into third place in the AL Central.
Lest we forget, and most of us would like to, the Royals were in last place in the division just 12 days ago, looking up at the other four teams. They still trail the White Sox and the Detroit Tigers by 12 games, but third place would be a significant achievement for the Royals, who started off the year losing 14 of their first 17 games and 10 in a row at home.
In recent years, with neither professional franchise having much to offer in the way of in-season or postseason excitement, by the end of January or right around the time of the Super Bowl, the pendulum for the fans in the heartland swings back the other way with all of the preseason buildup around the Royals and the coming of spring. Lately, the excitement, hopes and promises for a turnaround season for the Boys of Summer have been highest at that time of year than at any other point in the season.
The Chiefs won their one and only Super Bowl championship in 1969, the Royals' first season of operation as one of two new American League expansion teams. The Chiefs went 13-3 that championship season, while the Royals were 69-93 in their inaugural year. The year the Royals won the World Series over St. Louis, in 1985, the Chiefs found themselves headed in the opposite direction, finishing the season with a 6-10 record and in last place in the then-five-team AFC West.
In their 43 years of co-existence in Kansas City (not including 2012), only eight times have both the Royals and the Chiefs had .500 or better records in the same year, and, incredibly, only six times have both teams had winning seasons at the same time. The last time that happened was in 2003.
In Tony Pena's first season as manager the Royals surprised everyone by winning their first nine games and getting off to a 17-4 start. Kansas City held first place in the AL West for two months from late June to late August before falling off in the final month. The Royals ended up 83-79 and in third place in the division, which was better than anyone expected that year.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs, under coach Dick Vermeil, got off to an equally strong start that year, losing only once in the first 12 games en route to a league second-best 13-3 season and the AFC West division crown The Chiefs were the highest scoring team in the NFL that season.
From 1976 to their Word Series championship year in 1985, arguably the best 10 years in Kansas City Major League Baseball history, the Royals compiled an overall record of 860-711, a winning percentage of .550. During that same time period, the Chiefs' overall record was 58-91, with only one season of more than eight wins (9-7 in 1981).
Under head coach Marty Schottenheimer in the 1990s, the Chiefs had only one losing season from 1989 through 1998, including two 13-win seasons and six with 10 wins or more. Schottenheimer's teams won 101 games, lost 58 and tied one for a winning percentage of .640.
The single best year in the combined history of the Royals and Chiefs, from a winning standpoint, was 1971. The Royals were 85-76 in their third year in the major leagues. They finished second behind the Oakland Athletics, ironically the team the Royals replaced in Kansas City. The Chiefs finished 10-3-1 that same season, two years after their Super Bowl season, and lost to the Miami Dolphins in the NFL playoffs in overtime in what many Kansas City fans will painfully remember as one of the longest games in NFL history. It was also the final game played by the Chiefs in old Municipal Stadium. The team moved into Arrowhead the following season.
Only once in over four decades have the Royals and Chiefs posted back-to-back winning seasons at the same time. That occurred in 1993-94.
It has been so long, it is reasonable to wonder if Kansas City sports fans could simultaneously deal with the emotional upheaval of having championship-caliber professional teams in both baseball and football. That certainly would be a great problem to have, but for now, I believe most fans would be especially grateful just to begin a new era in which both local teams manage to simply win more than they lose.
As simple as that may seem, in Kansas City, as history clearly shows, that has not been the case.
Dual Winning Seasons For Both The Chiefs And Royals
1971 - Royals: 85-76, 2nd in AL West; Chiefs: 10-3-1, 1st in AFC West
1973 - Royals: 88-74, 2nd in AL West; Chiefs: 7-5-2, 2nd in AFC West
1991 - Royals: 82-80, 6th in AL West; Chiefs: 10-6, 2nd in AFC West
1993 - Royals: 84-78, 3rd in AL West; Chiefs: 11-5, 1st in AFC West
1994 - Royals: 64-51, 3rd in AL Central; Chiefs: 9-7, 2nd in AFC West
2003 - Royals: 83-79, 3rd in AL Central; Chiefs: 13-3, 1st in AFC West